The Spring of the Ram: The House of Niccolo 2 by Dorothy Dunnett
The exquisitely-researched standalone prequel series to Dorothy Dunnett's revered Lymond Chronicles, following the ancestors of Francis Crawford of Lymond in Continental Europe.
Spring of the Ram is Book Two in The House of Niccolo series.
'Catherine de Charetty, having chosen a lover just after the Feast of Exaltation of the Holy Cross, was much put out to learn that, at nearly thirteen, she did not possess all the required qualifications . . .'
Yet her secret suitor, Pagano Doria, claims he will wait and spirits her away from Bruges, first to Florence and then eastwards. On their trail is Nicholas vander Poele, her step-father, conducting his own journey to the fabled city of Trebizond, a Byzantine outpost on the Black Sea.
Known as the treasure-house of the East, Trebizond in 1461 is the ideal location for Nicholas to open the House of Niccolo's new trading post. However, the city's riches are threated by a Turkish army while rival merchant families seek to thwart Nicholas' ambitions.
Not least among them is Doria himself, harbouring a plan involving young Catherine to rain ruin on the head of House Niccolo. . .
'A sorceress of the genre' Daily Mail